Monday Coaching Update

Posted: January 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 485 Comments »

And so it continues.

On Sunday the Eagles interviewed Doug Pederson in KC. I wrote a detailed piece explaining why he could be a good fit for the Eagles. Some of you asked why I didn’t deal more with his faults. I feel like those issues are fairly obvious. I was more interested in why the Eagles see him as a good candidate. That was the bigger challenge.

One aspect of Pederson that bothers people is that other teams are not talking to him. That is a fair concern. But you are also missing the point to look at it that way. Pederson is a candidate for the Eagles because they know him. He played and coached for the Eagles. They have a knowledge of him that other teams don’t.

I recently wrote a post that told the story of how Mike Krzyzewski got the job at Duke. If it wasn’t for the recommendation of Bob Knight, Coach K would not have even been a candidate. Going strictly by resume, Duke was crazy to hire Krzyzewski.

If you love military history, you may know the story of Raymond Spruance. Prior to the Battle of Midway, Admiral William Halsey got sick. He was asked by Admiral Chester Nimitz to name a replacement. Halsey shocked everyone, including Spruance, by naming him to lead a key task force in an incredibly important battle. Spruance helped the US to win a key battle that was one of the turning points of World War II. He wasn’t the obvious choice, but he proved to be the right choice.

Sometimes finding the right man for the job goes beyond looking at a resume. When you know someone up close and personal, there is a value to that which is hard to quantify. If Andy Reid is making a strong recommendation and Jeff Lurie has a high opinion of Pederson, that might be more important than a superlative track record.

Pederson does make some sense. He’s certainly not at the top of my list. I preferred Adam Gase. He’s now in Miami and I’m trying to figure out what I want the team to do. There is no clear guy to pursue right now.

The Eagles interviewed Tom Coughlin today. I wrote the other day about how older coaches are having a lot of success right now so his age isn’t as negative a factor as it would seem.

The biggest issue I have with Coughlin is history. No coach who has ever won a Super Bowl with one team has ever gone to a new team and won the SB again. A lot have tried.

Vince Lombardi
Hank Stram
Don McCafferty
Tom Flores
Joe Gibbs (2nd tenure with WAS)
Mike Ditka
Bill Parcells
George Siefert
Jimmy Johnson
Mike Holmgren
Mike Shanahan

Only Tuna and Holmgren ever made it back.

History says that by hiring Coughlin you are guaranteeing you won’t win the Super Bowl. That’s pretty strong stuff.

Obviously some coach down the line is going to break that trend. Maybe Coughlin would come to the Eagles and turn out to be a great fit. Maybe he would turn this team into a juggernaut.

The only way I would hire him is if the meeting with him went so well that it felt like he had to be the guy. Jeff Lurie, Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski will be in the room conducting the interview. If all three come out of there completely sold, go for it.

If there is any doubt…any hesitation…then listen to history.

I do think Coughlin could be a good fit for the Eagles. He struck the right balance of discipline and being a players coach in NY. He was too strict early in his time there, but eventually loosened up and formed a very tight bond with his players. He gave in a little and they did their part to make things work.

*****

I watched Cincinnati’s defense closely on Saturday night, trying to get a better feel for Paul Guenther. I came away very impressed with how the unit performed. Sometimes you just see a really talented group having their way with an opponent. The Bengals have talent, but they look well-coached.

The players showed good discipline, in terms of coverage responsibilities and run gaps. Defenders were in the right spot on most plays. Guenther did a good job with mixing up his scheme and coverages.

Obviously the one glaring concern is the lack of personal discipline from Vontaze Burfict and Pacman Jones. They might have cost Cincy the game. Both players have been troublesome going back to college so you can’t exactly pin that on Guenther. Also, before the game, he went over to Joey Porter and specifically asked him not to talk to Cincy players since Porter had done that in a recent game and it caused issues. Guenther knew there could be trouble and tried to prevent it.

I still have questions with Guenther, but he has grown on me.

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Doug Pederson Day

Posted: January 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 671 Comments »

The Chiefs beat Houston on Saturday to advance in the playoffs. Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson has some fun plans for his Sunday.

The reaction to this has not been good.

I’m not sure why people are so against the idea. Pederson isn’t at the top of my list, but I think you can make an interesting case for the guy. I know he wasn’t a very good player, but that should have nothing to do with him as a coaching candidate.

BACKGROUND

Let’s start with his playing days.

You can see that Pederson had to scratch and claw his way into the league. He then had to keep fighting to try and keep a roster spot. That’s not good for a player, but it is great for a future coach. It shows mental and emotional toughness. It shows desire and dedication. It shows a willingness to do whatever it takes to make it.

Pederson had the good fortune to play for some great coaches. He got his start under Don Shula, one of the great coaches in NFL history. He then went to Green Bay, where he learned the West Coast Offense from Mike Holmgren. His QB coach was Andy Reid and when Reid left for the Eagles in 1999, he took Pederson with him. Pederson played for Chris Palmer in Cleveland and Mike Sherman upon his return to Green Bay.

He was exposed to a variety of systems and philosophies. The Dolphins threw the ball down the field. Shula also had very disciplined teams. They were always among the lowest penalized teams. Holmgren ran the purest version of the WCO this side of Bill Walsh, who he learned it from first-hand. Reid put his spin on things when he created his own version of the playbook. Palmer was a solid offensive mind (just a lousy head coach). Sherman ran a version of the WCO, but really incorporated the run game. Ahman Green ran for more than 1,800 yards in 2003. The Packers actually had more runs than pass plays that year.

Pederson saw some great defensive minds at work. Fritz Shurmur ran the Packers defense and did a lot of creative things. They were the #1 defense in 1996. Jim Johnson also ran a creative defense. Pederson got to see that up close for a year. Romeo Crennel was the DC in Cleveland. Ed Donatell ran the show in Green Bay.    Read the rest of this entry »


Old is In

Posted: January 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1,164 Comments »

I was going over some coaching lists on Friday night and doing some research when something occurred to me.

Take a look at the playoff teams.

NE
CIN
PIT
HOU
DEN
KC

WAS
MIN
GB
CAR
ARZ
SEA

Bill Belichick – 63
Marvin Lewis – 57
Gary Kubiak – 54
Andy Reid – 57
Mike Zimmer –  59
Mike McCarthy – 52
Ron Rivera – 54
Bruce Arians – 63
Pete Carroll – 64

Older coaches are having a lot of success these days. As we talk about hot young assistant coaches like Adam Gase, Ben McAdoo, Matt Patricia, Sean McDermott and so on…we often see their youth as a good thing. They have the energy to handle the job. They can relate to modern players. They’re innovative and should be able to adjust well.

For whatever reason, older guys are doing a better job right now.

Look at recent Super Bowl winners.

2014 – Bill Belichick – 62
2013 – Pete Carroll – 62
2012 – John Harbaugh – 50
2011 – Tom Coughlin – 65
2010 – Mike McCarthy – 47

You have to go back to 2010 to find a guy under the age of 50 winning a title.

The reason I was thinking about this was because there is a coaching candidate that I thought the Eagles should consider, but I wondered about his age. I’m referring to Mike Smith, who coached the Falcons from 2008-2014. He is 56 years old. I wondered if that was a bad thing or not.

This morning we’ve learned the Eagles do have interest in an older coaching candidate.

The Eagles have gotten permission to talk to him and will meet with Coughlin on Monday night.

Coughlin is a good coach. Some think he’ll go the Hall of Fame based on the 2 Super Bowls. I do not think he deserves that. There were too many mediocre seasons mixed in.

The Giants missed the playoffs the last 4 years and 6 of the last 7. That’s not good. The one year they made it, they did win the Super Bowl. Strange.

The biggest issue in recent years, from my perspective, was a combination of poor talent and injuries. The Giants constantly seemed to have half the team on IR. Is that something Coughlin did or was it simply bad luck. The Victor Cruz injury was entirely bad luck. The JPP situation was entirely bad luck. Still, the overall situation is worth examining. Maybe a bit of Sports Science could have saved Coughlin’s job.

As to the lack of talent, that’s on the front office more than Coughlin. They did pretty darn well with 1st round picks, but then missed in the middle and late rounds. That hurts the depth of the team, which obviously becomes critical when there are injuries. There is some responsibility with Coughlin and his assistants for not developing those players better. They were great with early picks, but things got ugly after that.

I think the Eagles should talk to Coughlin. Compare him to Gase and McAdoo and the other assistants that are getting a look. Decide if Coughlin sounds like a viable option. See how he compares to the young guys who are making their way around the interview circuit. That might help you decide which of the other candidates sounds like the better candidate

I think Coughlin to the Eagles is a long shot, but there can be value in talking to him. His players in NY did come to love him. That’s one of the things that Lurie wants. Find out how he created that environment and balanced it with his desire to be a disciplinarian.

We also have to remember the Lurie says he isn’t risk averse when it comes to making hires. Maybe he’ll see age strictly as a number and roll the dice with Coughlin. The big downside from a historical perspective is that no Super Bowl winning coach ever won a Super Bowl in his next job. Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren were the only two to make it back to the big game. They lost. Oddly, it was Holmgren who beat Parcells.

It sounds like Adam Gase will be hired by Miami today. The Eagles are going to interview Doug Pederson on Sunday and then meet with Coughlin on Monday. If the Eagles were completely sold on Gase, they’d have made a strong push to get him. They had interest, but not enough to make them want to quit looking at other candidates.

Every day seems to bring crazy new rumors and/or news. Maybe the Eagles will set up a meeting with Charlie Manuel next.

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Agent Games

Posted: January 8th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 129 Comments »

We can call this the coaching search time of the year. We could also call it coaching free agency.

Players in free agency usually have a large number of suitors. Coaches face a different market. Right now there are 7 job openings. And you have to understand that not every coaching candidate is going to appeal to all those organizations. The candidate might be more realistically looking at 2 or 3 suitors. That gives teams the upper hand.

This is where agents come in.

A Friday night update on Adam Gase.

So the Dolphins are hot to hire Gase.

But wait.

Just 2 days ago it was the Eagles who were hot to hire Gase.

I don’t know anything for a fact, but it sure feels like Adam Gase’s agent is using the media to create a sense of desperation in regard to his client.

The Eagles were the team that loved his client so suddenly he wanted the Dolphins (and others) to fear losing him. Now it is the Dolphins who might sign Gase so the Eagles (and others) need to fear losing him. This happens until someone makes a good enough offer.

Gase’s agent is Jimmy Sexton. He will play games with the media when it helps his client. This feels like one of those times. I could be wrong, but it just feels that way.

Adam Gase is the top coaching candidate right now, but he’s not a guy you blindly hand your franchise to. He’s not so far above the competition that he can do what he wants. Back in 1999 the top guys were Mike Holmgren, Brian Billick and  Jim Haslett. Andy Reid was down the list. Holmgren was the clear top guy. He controlled the market. There is nothing like that this time around.

The Eagles reportedly like Gase. I hope he gets the job. That said, I think the Eagles are smart to look around. They met with Ben McAdoo on Thursday. They’ll meet with Doug Pederson on Sunday. Paul Guenther should get an interview soon. We’ve heard rumors about Teryl Austin, but haven’t seen anything yet.

Gase isn’t the only guy out there in the middle of agent games. Sexton represents Doug Marrone. He was linked to the Eagles by some big name national reporters and then that was debunked by local reporters. The same thing was true in regard to Gase getting a second interview with the Eagles. National guy broke the news, local guy refuted it. I think Reuben Frank was the local reporter who refuted both stories. Agents are more likely to use national media guys to get stories out. That gets them to a bigger audience.

Maybe Gase gets hired by Miami this weekend.

Maybe he’s back in Philly for another meeting.

Maybe no team makes him an offer.

As I wrote the other day, the key is for the Eagles to find the right guy. If they felt Gase was a no-brainer, slam dunk, they would have made him a strong offer already. Clearly the Eagles want to look around. They want to get this hire right.

I’m not in a rush for the Eagles to make a hire. There is no “must have” candidate for me. The more I’ve read and studied Guenther and even Pederson, the more they have grown on me. I still prefer Gase, but that could easily change if I was able to sit in the room for the interviews. That’s the mystery part of the process. Reid obviously knocked the socks off Jeff Lurie and Joe Banner back in 1999.

Even the interview can give you a false-positive. The Buffalo Bills though Gregg Williams was sensational when he interviewed with them back in 2001. He was 17-31 in 3 years there.

The agents will continue to play their games in the media. Don’t get too caught up in reports. Back in 2013 Andy Reid was lock to be hired by the Cardinals. He ended up in KC. Last year everyone thought Doug Marrone was a lock for the Jets job. Todd Bowles ended up getting that.

Let’s see what happens.

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No Coach, Lots of Rumors

Posted: January 8th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 434 Comments »

Let’s start with the most interesting rumor of the coaching search so far.

Paul Domowitch reported today that Jon Gruden is interested in the Eagles job. Read the words carefully. Gruden…is interested in the Eagles. Not the other way around.

One other name has sort of surfaced in the Eagles’ coaching search: Jon Gruden.

Gruden is doing his biennial return-to-coaching tire-kicking. Whether he’s serious this time or just needs his ego massaged still is unclear.

But a league source told the Daily News that he has informed Lurie, through an intermediary, that he is interested in the Eagles’ head-coaching job.

The source said that while Lurie likes and respects Gruden, who was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator in 1997-98, he has reservations about the ESPN Monday Night Football analyst’s ability/willingness to play nice with Roseman, who has returned to a seat of personnel power now that Chip Kelly is gone.

Gruden has told people that working with Roseman wouldn’t be a problem. But Kelly said the same thing when he was hired in 2013, and look how that turned out.

For now, according to the source, Lurie is focused on his assistant-coaching candidates, with the idea that if he doesn’t happen to fall in love with any of them, he always can pick up the phone and call Chucky.

I’m not pushing for this to happen. Gruden won a Super Bowl in Tampa and had success in Oakland, but over his final 6 seasons in Tampa he was 45-51 and 0-2 in the playoffs. Gruden won with veterans, but failed to develop enough young talent in either stop.

Still, I’d be lying if I said part of me isn’t curious about what it would be like to have Gruden as coach. He was a great assistant for the Eagles and won big both in Oakland (not easy) and Tampa.

Howard Eskin has already talked to Gruden and been told “I’m not interested”, but who knows if that is really true. If Gruden did send out feelers to the Eagles and was rebuffed, he wouldn’t admit to that publicly. He would save face by denying interest.

Now let’s move on to “real” candidates.

Domo says Doug Pederson might be the favorite.

As we told you earlier this week, Doug Pederson, a former Eagles quarterback and assistant coach and now Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City, was Lurie’s leading assistant candidate going into the interview process.

He appears to still be that, though Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase apparently made a very good impression on Lurie, club president Don Smolenski and vice president of football operations Howie Roseman Tuesday when he met with them.

I think Pederson is an interesting candidate, but he’s not compelling in any way. I’ll write more on him later. Pederson deserves his own post, if he truly is one of the favorites.

Reports say the Eagles will interview him on Sunday (the Chiefs play on Saturday).

Make sure you read Domo’s column. He’s got plenty of other nuggets in there, including this one.

While the Eagles’ new head coach likely will be free to hire all of his own assistants, I’m told four of Chip Kelly’s assistants will be recommended by Lurie and Howie Roseman as possible “keeps’’ to the new coach: special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, running backs coach Duce Staley, defensive backs coach Cory Undlin and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.

Those would all be good moves. Fipp is the real key. He has established himself as one of the best STs coaches in the NFL. Keeping him should be a priority. The other assistants are good at what they do. I’d also be interested in bringing back DL coach Jerry Azzinaro, but a lot of that might have to do with the scheme. If the Eagles go to a 4-3, 1-gap attacking style, Coach Azz might not be the best fit. He may also be seen as being too much of a Chip Kelly guy. We’ll see how all this shakes out.

*****

One thing we know for a fact, the Eagles did interview Ben McAdoo on Thursday. He was the Giants OC for the past 2 years. Before that, he was the Packers QB coach. McAdoo isn’t a big name, but he’s got a good track record and is a coach on the rise.

We don’t know any details on the interview yet.

Jeff McLane does have an update on Adam Gase, who may or may not be a top Eagles candidate.

The NFL Network reported on Wednesday that the Eagles had planned on setting up a second interview with Gase, but an NFL source said nothing had been scheduled as of Thursday. The team remains interested in meeting with Gase again, however, according to several league sources.

The feeling is mutual. Gase came away from the eight-hour meeting with a favorable opinion of Roseman, a source familiar with his thinking said. Roseman, the Eagles’ vice president of football operations, will head the personnel department and work hand-in-hand with the new coach.

Gase met with the Dolphins on Thursday and was slated to sit down with the Giants as well. He interviewed with the Browns on Wednesday.

There is obvious competition for the 37-year-old Gase. But Lurie and company are committed to going through the process of meeting with each of their candidates.

That’s an interesting nugget about Gase and Roseman. I could see them getting along. Both have non-traditional backgrounds and had to really work hard to climb the football ladder.

In regard to the Eagles strategy of talking to multiple candidates, I think that is smart. If there was one guy who was incredibly compelling and felt like the ideal candidate, you hire him. Anything less than that and I think you are smart to look around and meet with different coaches. The first option isn’t always the best. Andy Reid wasn’t the Eagles first option in 1999. Jim Johnson wasn’t Reid’s first option. I think both moves worked out pretty well.

*****

One coach the Eagles do have interest in is Bengals DC Paul Guenther. They asked for permission to interview him.

Guenther has done a good job with the Bengals defense in the past 2 years. Prior to that, he did a very good job with the Bengals LBs in 2012 and 2013. Before that, Guenther worked with LBs, DBs and STs. He is a smart defensive coach and comes from a very stable situation. Seems rare these days when an assistant is with a team for a decade.

In a way, that’s one of my big concerns. You want coaches to move around and be exposed to different schemes and styles. Andy Reid only worked for one NFL team prior to coming to the Eagles, but was at several major colleges and worked for some good coaches. Guenther’s background is not typical.

1994–1995 Western Maryland (assistant)
1996 Ursinus (assistant)
1997 Jacksonville University (DC)
1997–2000 Ursinus (head coach)
2002–2003 Washington Redskins (assistant)
2005–2013 Cincinnati Bengals (assistant)
2014–present  Cincinnati Bengals (DC)

Small college football has a value, but you really need to use that as a launching pad. Guenther went from one small school to another to another before getting his foot in the NFL door. He’s worked for 2 influential coaches, Steve Spurrier and Marvin Lewis, and I’m not sure if NFL Spurrier should even count. I prefer more diversity in a coach.

That isn’t to say Guenther isn’t good at what he does and might not be a terrific head coach. He might. I just prefer when an assistant has been exposed to different ways of doing things. Just think about Pat Shurmur’s comments about working for Chip Kelly and how that experience changed him.

The more I’ve read on Guenther, the more he’s grown on me. He’s not my top choice, but I do like a lot of what he has to say. I was a big fan of Mike Zimmer’s and Guenther was his right-hand man for several years. That is worth something.

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